Bucharest gets a bad rap when measured against other European capitals. Travelers, like me, often come expecting something more but leave wondering what could have been better (exhibit: Skip Bucharest – Go to Brasov). After returning to the Romanian capital and leaving all expectations behind, one can say, don’t be quick to ever judge a book by its cover.
Bucharest is the most populated city in Romania and located south of the Eastern European country. The town rises precisely in the center of the Wallachian plain, between the Danube in the south and the Carpathians in the north.
The name “Bucharest” appeared for the first time in 1459 at the behest of Vlad Tepes. Vlad, “the impaler,” is better known as Count Dracula Lord of Wallachia, who built the fortress to defend his territory from the Ottoman Turks. During the Ottoman rule, the city developed a lot, becoming the most important economic center of Wallachia. But, In 1821 there was a peasant revolt that put an end to the Fanarioti government.
The character of Bucharest changed radically from 1859 when the two provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia united under the rule of a single prince, Alessandro Cuza. Two years later, the constitution allowed the union of the two principalities giving life to the state of Romania. On December 6, 1916, the city was occupied by German forces and the capital was transferred to the town of Iași.
Bucharest was finally liberated in December of 1918, returning to become the capital of the Kingdom of Romania. Soon after not so tragic period of the second world war, the city got haunted with another form of repression. From 1965, Romania enters the period of harsh communist rule under the regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu whose presence can still be felt even today.
Reaching Bucharest and Getting Around the City
After decades of communist isolation, the Romanian people have finally opened their borders to foreigners. Officially, there are more than 12 million visitors annually who visit this wonderful and undiscovered country every year. It boasts the best nightlife scenes of Europe and for the internationally famous Bucharest Bachelor adventures that take place every weekend. Visit the website to find out their great offer.
Luckily for all visitors, Bucharest is a city that is easily reachable from all over Europe thanks to the presence of two international airports. Henri Coanda Airport is served by large international airlines and is about 16 kilometers from the center, reachable by bus, train or car.
The Aurel Vlaicu Airport is used by low-cost airlines and is located about 7 kilometers from the center of Bucharest. The terminal is connected by bus, trolleybus, tram and also the Aurel Vlaicu metro station is nearby.
Reaching Bucharest by train is possible from some European cities, and the city is also at the center of one of the most famous road networks in Central and Eastern Europe.
Getting around the city is easy as the historic center can be visited very well on foot. The city is well served by public transport, which provides a subway (metro with four lines), trams, buses, and trolleybuses. Also, numerous taxi companies do not charge the fortune to get you around the city, but be wary of the scams and always go for the correct choice.
A Thing to Pay Attention to about Bucharest metro
The Bucharest Metro is easy to understand as it has few lines and plenty of time between stops. The tricky part is your ticket! The magnetic cards are a little silly because there is an arrow on one side, but you should put the card with the other side first in the ticket machine.
Travelers find this generally confusing because the arrow usually means “insert in this direction.” The other unusual thing with the Bucharest subway system is that you can’t buy a single ticket at the vending machine. You will have to obtain a ticket with at least two trips. This isn’t’ much of a problem in practice. Just go by tube several times, and you will pay less than 2 euros for two trips.
Things to Do and See in Bucharest
After enduring its communist past, Bucharest has taken a rightful place among the most beautiful and exciting European capitals from many points of view. A lively cultural and artistic life makes it suitable for a holiday dedicated to visiting monuments, squares and museums. Bucharest boasts 22 theaters, 37 museums, two opera houses, three auditoriums and numerous libraries, and unique coffee-book shops.
Therefore it’s suitable not just for university students and couples but also for families with small children. The capital of Romania is a real jewel to discover as a family. Many places in the city are exclusively family-oriented. So that makes this city so easy to travel with young children in tow.
The Most Famous Attractions
No visit to Bucharest is ever complete without visiting these famous attractions!
The Palace of the Parliament
The symbol of Bucharest is represented by the massive Palace of Parliament.
It is a 12-story building built by the dictator Ceausescu, who wanted it to be the largest building in the world after the Pentagon.
Just standing in front of it and admiring its gigantic size would be a thing that you will never forget.
As you start walking through the city, you will notice that there is a strong presence of the cultural and cosmopolitan atmosphere.
As demonstrated by the many buildings in the city.
Among these is the National Art Museum, one of the richest in Europe.
Its collections contain some of the works by Veneziano, Rembrandt, Rubens, Renoir, and Cezanne.
The National History Museum
(Part of the museum reopened to the public in 2000, housing the modern Romanian collection and the international collection. There is a comprehensive Medieval art collection, which features works salvaged from monasteries destroyed during the Ceaușescu era.)
The National History Museum is located in a neoclassical building where there are more than 150,000 exhibited objects. It displays the history of Bucharest from the old days to the present day. Also, not to be missed is the Satului Museum or the Village Museum. It is one of the largest and most famous Ethnographic outdoor museums in Europe.
(The soul-healing Transylvanian air is a plus, not to mention the local food delicacy that simply can not be missed.)
The beautiful Romanian Athenaeum is the backdrop to the most essential musical concerts in the city. Don’t forget to visit the Patriarchal Cathedral of Bucharest which, built between 1654 and 1658, was part of an architectural complex that also included the Patriarchate Palace and the Patriarchal Residence.
The Kretzulescu Church
The Kretzulescu Church, dating back to 1722, is one of the most beautiful in Bucharest thanks to the magnificent frescoes in its interior. Not to forget in the Old Town, the Church of the Ancient Court which dates back to the sixteenth century and decorated in a unique Byzantine style. Inside, it is possible to admire some perfectly preserved frescoes.
Arc de Triomphe
Another point of interest is the Arc de Triomphe that mimics the Paris one but Built with wood and stucco in 1922 and commemorated Romania’s victorious participation in the First World War. Its magnificent pillars have internal stairs that lead to a terrace from which you can admire the city.
The CEC Palace, built between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, is characterized by a majestic neo-Gothic facade and today is the headquarters of the Romanian National Bank. For couples on a romantic getaway, the idea is to spend a few hours in Cișmigiu Park, an idyllic paradise of flowers, trees, ponds and bridges where you can admire gentlemen playing chess and children running in a distance.
On the island in the middle of Lake Snagov, there is a beautiful monastery from the 16th century. It is celebrated by the legend, behind which is the infamous Vlad Tepes, buried in front of the altar. Vlad was indeed killed in the battle by a group of Turks nearby. The rumors reached that monks brought his body to the monastery and buried him properly according to the tradition.
One hundred years after the construction of the Snagov Monastery, built-in 1346, there were works on the walls of the fortress and prison. However, archaeological excavations of this site, conducted in the 1930s, revealed an empty grave.
This fact was one of the reasons why the legends of “Vampire Dracula” captured momentum. The floor of the church of Snagov marked a place where the remains of the Count Vlad Tepes were lying. The Snagov Monastery is located on the island and can only be reached by boat.
For nature lovers, we suggest a visit to Herastrau Park, the largest in Romania, with the gorgeous Herăstrău lake. The vegetation of this lush paradise consists of a variety of deciduous tree species and shrubs; also, there are protected trees such as Tagore oak and the cherry garden in the breathtaking Japanese section. In the vicinity of Bucharest, there is also a Zoo that your kids will just love to see.
For those wishing to make trips out of town, we recommend a visit to the Sapanta Cemetery, in the Maramures region. Also nicknamed “Allegro Cemetery” for its recognizable bright colors, especially blue. It is a real open-air museum. At the top of each cross, there is a bas-relief with a simple scene describing the daily life of the deceased, surrounded by ironic and satirical poems.
Bucharest is one of the European capitals that offers more surprises both in cultural and gastronomic terms.
However, it also offers much in terms of nightlife. The Romanian capital manifests its generosity in terms of divertissement at night, delivering an exclusive range of bars, pubs, clubs, and discos with some names reaching even the highest ranks in Europe.
This is a fashionable and sparkling city. The crazy nightlife not only happens during the weekend but also during the weekdays.
The entrances fees to bars, pubs, and clubs in the city are quite cheap. But, sometimes it’s easy to come across more touristy places where prices are higher. The historic center of Bucharest is dotted with bars and discos crowded with local and young people.
As we mentioned, this city has recently become popular among visitors from all around the world who visit for the Bucharest bachelor parties. That, of course, happened for a good reason. There are two of them, and they are the top-notch clubbing scene in Europe. On average prices in Bucharest’s clubs are 30% lower than in the rest of the EU. That information will surely be handy if you plan to order the fifth round.
The Old Town Nightlife
The Old Town or Lipscani provides nightlife that will make even the largest capitals in Europe envious.
There are in reality, more than 30 events every evening in the Old City between pubs and bars packed with travelers and university students.
Lipscani clubs are generally free to get in; beer rates vary between 8 -20 and cocktail between 25 and 35 Lei.
There are many adult bars in Old Town that give distinct kinds of amusement in the Striptease style that are very popular among foreigners.
Numerous attractive breweries and wineries in the Old City, as well as bars, pubs and even some open cafes, are available lately for guests who want to appreciate the night in a peaceful manner.
Just outside the historic town, there are two prominent nightlife hotspots after crossing Latin Passage.
The Hangover Club and the Club Kultur house; both are very price friendly.
The very crowded Calea Victoriei has club Control, Kristal and Interbalic on the weekend, and it’s a fantastic place if you want to explore somewhat distinct areas than of the old town, where there are fewer travelers.
For those who would like to witness the thriller of Bucharest’s big and beautiful clubs, it is highly suggested that you choose a stylish outfit, book a taxi and travel in the north of the town. Among the biggest and most internationally known clubs are Bamboo, Player, Fratelli, Kristal Glam, Goa and lately the Faceclub.
Nearly every club has an entrance charge of about EUR 10, while the price for table reservations may vary from 200 to 550 euros according to the club. These clubs give an excellent display with performers, graphics and other live spectacles, in relation to the top-notch live acts, that you can enjoy while drinking your cocktail at the table.
Table booking is strongly advised and simply forget about finding one that’s free in the peak nightlife hours. It requires at least two weeks in the city to experience the nightlife of Bucharest to the fullest. Also, tourists benefit from the cheap rates of taxis since it’s so easy to move around the least accessible areas of the old town during the night and simply exit in front of the new disco at any hour of the night.
Among the primary motivations for all travelers to visit Bucharest are the mentioned low price rates of alcohol, the extravagance of clubs, and the many beautiful women who rush to party every weekend.
Below are the best clubs in the city. True to its reputation, Bucharest is one of the liveliest cities in Europe when it comes to dance clubs!
The Freddo Bar & Lounge
Hosts several events and is very popular among youngsters.
The Fire Club
A historic Bucharest disco pub that continues to entertain generations of young people with its sophisticated music, which spans all genres depending on the evenings. It is one of the most visited clubs in the Old Town. Since the beginning of the 2000s, the club has actively supported young local alternative rock bands. Almost all popular local groups began their careers jamming at this club. Currently, the club consists of a pub, a dance zone, and a concert hall.
This is a place that the fans of such rock music simply adore. It is especially crowded here on Thursdays, the most beloved by students’ day. During the daytime, the club is one of the best places to watch live sports events.
Serves as both a pub and a club with live music and dance in the old town. On three levels, it offers music for all tastes.
The Kristal Glam Club
Located in the north-eastern part of Bucharest, a club with electronic music that organizes some of the most incredible events in the city. The most incredible events in the city take place here.
The club was recognized as the best club in Romania 6 times by the websites that characterize the best club in Southeast Europe, and also the club ranks 28th in the Top 50 best clubs in the world. In addition to so many prizes, the club won the heart of the Romanian public when it began to invite the best international and local DJs for parties.
If you are a fan of electronic music, you just can’t miss this place. Excellent light and sound systems and great concerts can be noted. Sunwaves, one of the most popular electronic music festivals in the country, is also held here.
The Expirat Club
One of the longest-running clubs in the city and one of the most essential nightclubs in Bucharest. Most evenings there is live music.
The Old City
Located in the center of the Old City, frequented by people from all over the world.
The Control Club
Started as a club with live music concerts and over the years has turned to electronic music, also known as an experimental laboratory for local groups.
The club is very popular as a venue for performances of groups playing indie music. Also, for many years the club was one of the best in the field of electronic music.
Many young bands start their careers at this club. In general, this is a big experimental stage for local musicians and DJs.
If you want to go to the disco of the guru of the DJ booth, go to discos “under the control” of resident DJs who have already earned fame and respect.
On Wednesdays, you will come across an unexpected surprise; all drinks are 50% off!
In the summer, the club participates in the one-day “Control Day Out” festival. Pay attention to the headliners of the party – very famous people can come here!
The Fratelli Social Club
One of the clubs of excellence in Bucharest, attended by the city’s elite.
One of the best nightclubs in Bucharest, seen from the outside, it looks like a warehouse, but once inside, you will be surprised by the luxury of the place.
The Eden Club
Stands out for its post-industrial atmosphere and eclectic music, it is now the epicenter of the hipster movement, offering two rooms with different music.
The somewhat newcomer on the club scene of the city. It has already managed to cause a splash of love among electronic music lovers, especially after holding several manele parties.
Manele is a musical genre from Romania, a sort of modern interpretation of folk music with Balkan influence.
The club is famous for its post-industrial atmosphere and eclectic approach. It is located in the basement of Ştirbei Palace, where the royal family kept their expensive wines.
Currently, the epicenter of hipsters and other representatives of the local youth culture. You can enjoy music and party in two separate areas.
The club recently opened its own small terrace, next to the Eden Garden. An inverted plateau enclosed by wild slopes covered with vegetation and it has its private small terrace. It is very cozy in the evenings.
A trendy club in the heart of the old city of Bucharest offering rock music, dance and live music.
Some of the Most Notable Bars and Pubs in the City Are
Caru Cu Bere
The oldest brewery in Bucharest is trendy. It is better to book in advance just to be sure to find a seat.
The Nomad Skybar
A bar located inside a beautiful loft in the old city of Bucharest, with a glass roof that reveals the starry sky. Nominated as the most unique and relaxing place to grab a cup of coffee. The Nomad skybar is a favorite choice among visitors who want to enjoy a somewhat relaxing atmosphere in unusual surroundings.
A very popular pub where there is often live music.
The Shift pub
A Bohemian restaurant, but also a bar and a club that offers a mix of music and serves soups, salads, light meals.
The Drunken Lords
A popular and lively pub and club that frequently hosts live music, sports, and cultural events.
Bucharest ‘s Hard Rock Cafe
Located on the edge of Herastrau Park and is one of the largest in Europe. During the day, the place attracts many families with children. At night live music draws a crowd of young people ready to party until late.
The Harp pub
One of the most popular Irish pubs and offers mainly Guinness beer and good food, including huge hamburgers. There is always live music every Friday and Saturday night at this club.
The Green Hours
Offers evenings with live jazz, frequented by people of all ages.
The Pub Universitatii
A large and lively pub serving drinks and good food, one of the best pubs in Bucharest.
Where to Stay in Bucharest?
If you don’t know where to go and want a familiar and comfortable accommodation, you can stay at the Sheraton Hotel. Otherwise, read on.
Bucharest is one of the most important commercial hubs of Eastern Europe, divided into many districts. For this reason, choosing the right area to stay in is essential to make the most of this wonderful city. Divided into very large sectors, the city also occupies a very large area. Sectors 1, 3 and five are in rather central areas.
The ideal is to make sure that your accommodation is as close to the center as possible. Below we will let you discover the Old Town and the area around Unirii Square, which are some of the best places to stay in Bucharest.
The Old Town is the Most Convenient
One of the best and convenient places to stay in Bucharest is the Old Town (Centrul Vechi). It offers most of the facilities to stay in and here you will also find the best restaurants and nightlife options. The Little Bucharest Old Town Hostel is right in the middle of the old town and has a coworking space for digital nomads.
In the historical center of Bucharest, it is possible to observe a variety of architectural styles, in particular, those that survived the Second World War and the Communist Era. This area stands out from the rest of Bucharest precisely for this reason.
The historic center is also the ideal place to eat or have a drink in one of the many picturesque cafés in the area. Do not miss “Caru cu’ Bere”, one of the most traditional restaurants in Romania.
To the south, but still close to the historic center is Unirii Square (Piața Unirii). One of the main attractions in the city with a large shopping center that has brands found in any major city in Western Europe.
Unirii Square is close to the intersection point of the main lines of the Bucharest metro, making it one of the best areas to stay in Bucharest. If you stay in another district of Bucharest, you will probably pass by Unirii Square using public transport.
The city has many hotels and accommodations to cater to every need and wants. If you would like a more personal and off-the-beaten accommodation, try Airbnb. Use my Airbnb code for up to $55 off your first stay!
Podstel Umbrella – A cozy hostel founded in 1920 and renovated in 2012. It is a short walk from the Piaţa Romană metro station.
Rembrandt Hotel – Close to the iconic Lipscani street, this hotel is an excellent choice for staying in the heart of Bucharest. You can easily reach the Old Town from this hotel within minutes. This is a perfect choice for anyone looking to stay in a picturesque and charming area.
Hotel Cismigiu – This elegant hotel is located in a renovated building. An excellent place to stay in Bucharest with comfort.
Luxury Hotels in Bucharest
Epoque Hotel – Luxury and comfort are a priority at the Epoque Hotel. This luxurious hotel is located in Bucharest’s sector 1, within walking distance of the Izvor metro station.
The Marriot Grand Hotel – Another luxury option for discerning guests to stay in Bucharest.
What Are the Romanian Delicacies and Where to Find Them in Bucharest?
As we mentioned, Bucharest does not skimp on architectural beauties to admire. Neither does it save on the varied wealth of Romanian gastronomy. The wide range of restaurants both local and international cuisine that is present in Bucharest, allows the traveler to immerse themselves in a real sea of delicious culinary opportunities.
Romanian cuisine is undoubtedly mixed. There there is a harmonious coexistence of meat, fish, cheese, polenta and vegetable dishes.
In fact, these are the main foods that characterize the cuisine of Bucharest, which has undergone, over time, strong and decisive influences from the Balkan cuisine, particularly Turkish:
Mititei – A special cylindrical meatballs prepared with beef (at the discretion combined and mixed with lamb and pork) and seasoned with chili or black pepper, a choice of garlic and a spice called Cimbru. Grilled and accompanied by local sauces or the most common mustard for a delicious treat.
Tochitură cu ou şi mămăliguţă– Beef stew accompanied by polenta.
Muschi – A grilled pork accompanied and served with a side dish of mixed vegetables.
Sarmale – Vine or cabbage rolls stuffed with pork and rice.
Fasole cu carnati – Smoked sausage combined with dark beans.
Frigarui – Skewers made from minced meat (beef, lamb, pork) cooked on a spit.
The Most Famous Romanian Dishes
Ciorba – A sour soup based on bran fermented with the addition, at the discretion, of hen meat, tripe or vegetables.
Placinte – A type of homemade pasta filled with nasal, the typical Romanian cheese.
The fish-based dishes, on the other hand, see mainly the carp, prepared on a spit, baked, grilled or marinated and freshwater prawns.
Among the Typical Sweets of the Romanian Cuisine
Cozonac – A typical dessert of Romanian gastronomy, consumed mainly during the Easter period. A parallelepiped-shaped cake stuffed with candied fruit, cocoa, and nuts.
Saraille – Another traditional dessert of Romanian cuisine; a dessert composed of almond paste and soaked in rum.
Recommended Restaurants in Bucharest
Bucharest is a city full of restaurants of various kinds both in gastronomic and stylistic terms. There is, therefore, a wide range of choices for tourists. Notably, the best ones are Casa Doina, Carù cu Bere, and the Boutique Food Concept Stores.
This is one of the most famous restaurants in Bucharest. It is located in a historic building in a beautiful and well-kept park. The Casa Doina restaurant specializes in local cuisine. It offers a refined and elegant environment, with a splendid terrace. Many of the city’s politicians and businessmen dine here. While priced above average, you get what you pay for. Located at Sos. Kiseleff 4 Street, Sector 1.
The Curù cu Bere Restaurant
The Curù cu Bere is the oldest brewery-restaurant in Bucharest dating back to 1875. This place offers its customers a gothic atmosphere in which echoes the figure of the famous Count Dracula. Specializing not only in traditional local cuisine but also offers vegan and vegetarian dishes. Suggestive and folkloristic atmosphere thanks to the typical Romanian dances that accompany guests during dinner. It is simply excellent value for money. Located at Stavropoleos Street 5.
Boutique Food Concept Store
Concept Store Boutique Food is a Bucharest restaurant specializing in international cuisine, mainly French and Italian. The restaurant wraps its customers in a romantic, warm and welcoming atmosphere. Friendly and attentive staff.
At the Concept Food Boutique, you can enjoy an excellent French, Italian or local dinner despite the low prices. Located at Sos. Kiseleff 4 Street at Sector 1 of Bucharest.
Best Tours in Bucharest
Tours save you time and money. Rather than do all the research yourself and flip through countless pages of a dictionary, why not go with a knowledgeable local in a tour?
Here are the best tours in operation right now in Bucharest:
Activity Park and Spa Trip – Test your shooting skills by using a real pistol at a shooting selection. Indulge at the adrenaline rush of a high ropes course among the treetops and unwind from Europe’s biggest coated thermal spa.
Palace of Parliament Tour – The Bucharest Palace of Parliament is a must-see as it is the world’s second-largest administrative construction and a monument left behind by the communist regime.
3-Hour Guided Tour of Communist Bucharest – During this 3-hour walking tour, you will find the significant landmarks and events of Bucharest’s communist past, including the brutal beginnings of this regime, in addition to the nationalization and compelled demolition of thousands of houses.
Pub Crawl in the Old Town – Experience the most famous pub crawl in Bucharest to get a unique nightlife experience. A combination of local culture and popular touristic areas, in addition, this is an excellent opportunity to meet many fun new people and get acquainted with the city.
Evening Bucharest Beer Tour – Fasten your seatbelts! You are going to take a journey into the center of Bucharest, drinking local craft beer one of the dreamily grandiose architectures of the little Paris’.
Half-Day Bike Tour – Discover Bucharest by bike on a half-day tour. Get a summary of the city’s many areas, including the gypsy area, Communist Bucharest and much more.
Travel Resource & Planning For Romania
Here are some helpful tips if you’re planning to travel to Bucharest and of course Romania where it’s located. Romania is one of my favorite countries to visit for various reasons.
Check out flights on Skyscanner. By far my favorite flight search engine because it lands me the best flight deals. You can see which days are cheapest to book your flights or how to land cheap mistake fares to milk it even further.
I always recommend having your trip covered in case of unfortunate incidents. World Nomads is an excellent place to start and they’ve never let me down. I’ve also used Travelex and Roam Right in the past, both are good options. Do some comparison shopping and find the one that caters to your trip best.
Best Guide Book – Romania Travel Guide 2019 Edition
Recommended Reading – Romania: Culture Smart and the description is for Culture
Learn how to travel in Romania for under $35 a day! If you’re really on a budget or broke, check out my guide on how to travel cheap (and sometimes free!), also learn more about my in-depth guide on how to budget for travel so you can travel smarter and even longer.
However you want to describe the capital city of Romania, it always has the attribute of an “undiscovered gem”. Millions of satisfied visitors describe their first visit to this city as unexpected and mind-twisting cheap experience that they simply can’t wait to do over again.
Take at least two, or four, days for the best adventure in this city and give it a chance to make it fall in love with all of your senses for an unforgettable journey that is undoubtedly going to be for all of you.
Read More About Romania:
- The Most Beautiful Cities in Romania
- A Day in Sibiu
- A Day in Timisoara
- The Most Spectacular Places in Romania
- A Day in Alba-Iulia
- Day Trips from Brasov
- A Day in Peles Castle
- 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Romania